Monday, September 30, 2013
Panasonic DMC-GH4 to be announced soon? Status: Available
Since the Olympus E-P5, Panasonic GX7, and Olympus E-M1, time has been pushing the Panasonic GH3 backward a bit, as far as the use of current technology.
Notably, the 1/8000th of a second shutter speed those three have, mates better with those Voigtländer f/0.95 aperture lenses. They also have fancier viewfinders, even though the E-P5's excellent VF-4 viewfinder is an optional add-on.
Thankfully, I don't have such fast lenses (maximum aperture f/1.4) for the GH3, and my f/2.0 Olympus ZD lenses don't always have a problem with the 1/4000th of a second shutter speed. I've seen 1/5000th of a second shutter speed while photographing sports with the Olympus E-5 and those same Olympus ZD lenses.
On the other point, the electronic viewfinder is a major problem for me. I have managed to work around it, but there have been times when I'm trying to get some shots and the camera is working but the viewfinder is not up to speed, so there is guess work involved in getting the next shot. Also, the color rendition is lousy--purple is dark blue, as I noticed last Thursday. The shots look fine but the viewfinder misleads you. Manual focusing is another difficult area, as there are just not enough pixels to replace an optical viewfinder well, and the magnifying bit is annoying and I miss shots, so I've disabled the "assistance". However, using the E-M1's EVF and having zero problems with it, suggests that Panasonic can also do that well with theirs.
Now, there is a Panasonic announcement (GM1, 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 and future Leica/Panasonic 15mm f/1.7) in a little more than a week (further back?), supposedly. It may not be about the GH3 replacement but Photokina isn't that far away (actually, Photokina has turned into an every-other-year exposition, so waiting until October 2014 is a bit long) and it seems that they announced the GH3 about that time. Update 2013.11.06: October is gone, and November seems to be quiet. There are rumors about a 4K video addition, but will that be put into a GH3 replacement? That almost seems too much, as it will require more firmware, and much stronger processing capabilities. Still, Panasonic seem dedicating effort to toppling Canon's 5DMkIII, so it might happen. There is also the AF100/AF105 that they need to replace, so it might be a dual announcement. NAB 2014 runs from April 5 through 10. Perhaps, the announcement will happen then. It seems late but plausible.
(Why isn't the replacement a GH4? Since the sound of "four" in Japanese and Chinese is the same as "death", it is considered an unlucky number. In Japan, inviting 3 guests has been considered a situation where you want one of them to die because there will be four of you seated at the table. Because of that, tableware comes in sets of five. I don't buy products in sets of four simply because I might run into the situation, whether I believe in superstition or not, I am a Japanese.)
It would be good to see the GH5 with the enhancements of the GX7, while still providing a great camera body and manual controls (not counting the DISP button). If Panasonic can move the acceptable photo level from ISO 3200 to ISO 6400, I'd be thrilled because ISO 6400 right now is mush, even with raw files. It seems that they need a bit more fine control in the Venus imaging engine. (Update 2013.11.07: I read the DPReview review of the GX7 and the EVF is really broken with "rainbow tearing". What good is a denser display, if you can't see the scene properly?)
With the speedier shutter speed and an enhanced viewfinder, it will make a good package better for photographers, rather than just videographers. Panasonic mentioned that they wanted the GH3 to be a great stills camera and they were on the right track but they didn't make it all the way.
The GX7 (and the GM1!) seems to have adjusted things a bit, so they're still learning. Of course, the sensor from the Olympus E-M1 would help me a lot. I use my Four-Thirds lenses enough of the time that having auto focus available at times would be useful. Most of them work now, but I need patience compared to using them on the Olympus E-5. I would still need some patience compared to the E-5 when using them on the E-M1, so I could ask the runners to run more slowly.
Token changes are unnecessary. Color options aren't warranted.
I suspect that a lot of people are waiting to see if Panasonic implements a 4K video mode of any kind. I would suggest that they need to modify a lot to get there, even though the sensor has enough resolution for it. Faster pathways cost more and there would need to be more firmware capacity to support 4K video. As far as I'm concerned, they can rip out all the fancy effects in the firmware and just provide great stills and video.
Update 2014.01.08: Panasonic has shown a GH3 with a "4K" sticker on the GH3 and proposed that this newer, higher model will be "arriving" in late February here. Of course, saying that it's under US$2000 likely means that it's US$1999(.99) or thereabouts. Still, it's cheaper than the Canon 5DMkIII. There was apparently zero news about how it worked photographically, other than being able to take a stills shot while capturing video. 200 Mbps capture is fast, so those little SD Cards won't be as useful as they are with the GH3. Since it's not a replacement for the GH3, I'm still wondering when Panasonic will replace it, as they can't make hardware changes through firmware, even though a lot of people apparently think it's possible.
I suspect that they could make the GH3 a great photographic tool, if they removed most of the video firmware content and replaced it with appropriate firmware content for still photography but that wouldn't do since video is the GH3's very special domain.
Update 2014.11.26: The GH4 has been available for a while and it's been successful. It still has the odd problem with auto focus, but what camera body doesn't? Getting 85% from DPReview was surprising, since they generally only like Canon or Nikon equipment.
I still have not bought mine, and I traded my GH3 in June (for an Olympus E-M1) to avoid a discounted trade-in price. This is definitely the time to buy as the GH4 has been discounted to roughly $1499.99 everywhere. When I tried to trade in June, Unique Photo wasn't getting them regularly, and I happened to be gone the next week with no certain address ahead of me until July.
The E-M1 has been a good companion but not as comfortable as the GH3, and definitely not a video-oriented camera body. It is extremely responsive.
Thinking about the discount on the GH4 right now, I may take a trip to buy one in just a bit.
Update 2015.04.08: I got mine shortly after that, with the US$200 discount. It's been much better than the GH3.
It can be a pain but it's less of a pain than the GH3. It's amazing for video, less so for still photography with not so good auto focus.